Apologeet.nlWhat About Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel?
Part 3 – Old Testament
This is part 3 of this series. Please watch part one and two first because we build on those two videos in this part. You’ll find the links in the description of this video.
As said, I work as missionary in the middle of nowhere on Madagascar, and I have heard this question many times: What will happen to those who never heard the Gospel? Where do they go when they die?
In the first part we have found out that actually every single person on this earth deserves to be punished for his or her sin. That is the only just and honest position God can take. But we concluded also that this is not the end of the story. In part 2 we discovered that every human can have a certain knowledge of God through nature and also through their own conscience.
Let’s do something risky. Let’s talk about some people from Old Testament times who apparently got saved.
The first one that comes to my mind is Abraham. Romans 4 is pressing the idea that Abraham was truly saved, not because of his works but because of faith.
“What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.”
Abraham knew close to nothing about God’s plan of sending Jesus. He didn’t even know about the laws as given to Moses. How on earth could Abraham be saved? His faith, how incomplete you might believe it was, has saved him. He trusted God for his justification. Paul wasn’t just a blabbering boob…I’ve got that from dr. Seuss’ Horton hears a who. No he actually quotes Genesis 15:6 “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”
So, what did Abraham believe? Obviously he knew that God was the one who created everything. He could have found that out through nature, but God granted him, what we call in theology ‘special revelation’. God came to him in a supernatural way. Later we also see this in Moses’ life, where God appears to him in the burning bush. That was what we call a theophany, which comes from the old Greek. Theos meaning ‘God’, and phaneia which mean ‘appearance’. But, some would say it was more like an epiphany. An epiphany is a more generic happening and means something like ‘manifestation from above,’ because God Himself was not seen. However, an epiphany can also be a manifestation of a spirit or whatever. Being a Christian, I use the word theophany if and only if we are talking about the manifestation of God (with capital G) and not just about the manifestation of any deity.
All humans are granted, what we call ‘general revelation’. That is revelation through nature and conscience as explained in part 2 of this series. But Abraham was one of lucky people who received special revelation!
Actually, this still happens today you know. Maybe not so much in free countries, where we can get Bible and listen to podcasts. No, these special revelations are much more common in closed countries. Stories of Muslims who converted to Christianity because Issa, that is Jesus, appeared to them. That must be absolutely awesome don’t you think?
Anyway, Abraham received the promise of having a lot of offspring, God was going to multiply his seed. We now know that this actually directed to Jesus because Jesus is the ultimate seed of Abraham. But Abraham did not now this, did he? However, he believed God, and he obeyed Him, and God credited it to him as righteousness.
And what about this woman called Rahab? This story still amazes me big time! Here come the people of Israel. They are conquering the promised land. Jericho was the most important Canaanite fortress city in the Jordan Valley. It was a stronghold directly in the path of the advancing Israelites. The king of Jericho heard that two Israelite spies were within his city and ordered them to be brought out to him. Rahab protected them by hiding them on her roof.
Rahab told the spies that the people of Jericho were terrified of the Israelites ever since God defeated the Egyptian army, which happened about 40 years earlier. The city was completely destroyed, and everybody was killed. But Rahab and her family were spared.
Now comes the amazing part of this story. Rahab, who was a young Canaanite prostitute, married Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth. Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, is her direct descendant!
Rahab wasn’t in a great position to get to know the God of Israel. She grew up and lived in a corrupt, depraved, pagan culture. However, she heard the stories of the miraculous escape from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea. She heard about the things that happened to Israel in the wilderness, and their recent triumph over the Amorites. She had learned enough to come to the correct, saving conclusion in Joshua 2:11 “When we heard of it, our hearts sank and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” It changed her heart. And this faith—together with the actions coming forth out of this faith—that saved her and her family.
Hebrews 11:31 clearly states that Rahab was saved. Why? Because of her faith in “God in heaven above and on the earth below”. Christians are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8 says
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”.
But we also need to recognise that both Rahab and Abraham exemplified their faith by action. Abraham had to travel away from his country to an unknown place, and Rahab had to put the scarlet cord out of the window. Likewise, we as Christian have accepted Jesus as our saviour and according to James that faith must become visible through our lifestyle, our actions.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? […] faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Both Abraham’s and Rahab’s faith enabled them to turn away from their culture, their people, and their religion and to the Lord. Commitment to a true faith in God may require setting priorities that are contrary to those of the world, as we are call upon to do in Romans 12:2
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
General and Special Revelation
I just had to talk about these amazing stories during one of our meals. Of course, we read the Bible as a family, but besides that we also quite often discuss Biblical topics at the table, which it pretty cool. I said that Rahab was saved through faith. Now, one of the children said that she had faith after she received a revelation. But the Bible doesn’t say that about her. She heard about the God of Israel and apparently she used her brains. She figured out that He is the God of heaven and earth and that besides Him there is no other. I wouldn’t call that ‘special revelation’ in the sense that God directly revealed something to her. Maybe I am missing something here, if so you can let me know in the comment section.
In contrary, when we look at Abraham’s life we do see that he clearly received special revelation. God directly spoke to him and he obeyed.
Is general revelation, nature and conscience, enough for people to come to a saving faith in God? It might be, and I think the story of Rahab comes close. But probably most need something extra to come to the same conclusion as Rahab. But then again, can it be that special revelation also includes hearing the message, not directly from God, but through human sources? If that is so, then the missionary among the un-reached, the evangelist in the streets, and in Rahab’s story, the people telling the miraculous stories of the God of Israel, can all be counted for special revelation in one way or another.
Actually, when I think about it, and I might be wrong, but I think general revelation is probably not enough. But it is enough to make people ready for special revelation. The fact that I do not have to waste my time on explaining people here that God exists and that He is mighty, can be subscribed to, in my opinion, general revelation.
Okay, I am going to wrap this part up. I would like to go to Act 17:26-27
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
Paul is preaching to the Greek people. What is he telling them? All humans are decedents from Adam and God wants to be found! And then, contrary to atheistic beliefs, Paul says that God is not far and can be found! You see, many want you to believe that God didn’t leave any evidence for us to find Him.
Now, this argument isn’t new. Listen to this:
2 Peter 3:3-6
“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.”
This last part talks about the great flood. How can people forget what happened in the past during the flood? Simple, let’s try to explain away all geological features of the earth. Wrinkled mountains? Very sharp boundaries in between earth layers? Mass graves with dinosaur bones? Nahh, that cannot be caused by a major worldwide disaster. No, Let’s stick a label with billions of years on those features and voila! We just reasoned God out of the picture.
God wants to be found, and He is not far. The only thing keeping people is their own reluctance to actually find Him. We don’t want Him in the equation.
I once talked with a lady, who worked in a supermarket, who said she wanted to find out who God was. So, the weeks that followed I got the change to tell her all about the Gospel. After some weeks she started a job somewhere else. A year later I met her again. We Talked a bit, and she had an amazing story. She suffered a very painful knee injury, and it couldn’t be helped by the doctor. One day she went to watch her son playing soccer. Next to her sad a man. All of a sudden this man, a total stranger, turned to her and said that the Lord told him about her knee. She was shocked! Whether he could pray for her. She agreed and he prayed out loud. The lady felt embarrassed but she let him do his thing anyway. It was a simple prayer. Something in the line of “Lord Jesus, your are the great healer. Please heal her leg”. Next day her knee was completely healed. The doctor did not have an answer. But she knew, it was that prayer of this man, who prayed so full of trust in the Lord Jesus. I was so happy for her! I asked whether she needed more proof than that. “No,” she said. “I know God is real. I also believe that Jesus died and rose again.” On which I asked her whether she started following Him already… “No”, she said, “I am not going to give up my life.”
God can be found, but many of us don’t really want Him. Faith in the Old Testament did not mean that the person knew all about God’s plans for the future. They decided to earnestly seek God and put their trust in Him.
Conclusion so far
So, let me summarise this in some basic truths again.
- Number one is that God wants to save all people. This is universal. He gave His only-begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
- Number two, people can respond to general revelation. The nature around us and our conscience is enough to get someone to humble him or herself and really seek God.
- Number three, should than be that God will respond to those who really seek Him.
“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord […]”
Okay, I’ll have to stop now, else the video will be way too long. I really love this topic as it gives me a lot of new insights as well. But it is a huge topic! I read some comments from you that suggest that there are different opinions out there. My videos seem to draw in angry people as well. Well, I am not sure whether they are really angry, but they do sound angry. But, be that as it may, I would like to ask you to mind your language. Other than that, I very much appreciate your input in the comments.
My videos can also be watched on Bitchute and YouTube, but I am mostly active on Odysee. So, if you want to comment on this video, I would suggest doing so on Odysee. But, to comment you’ll need an account and if you use my invitation we both get some LBC for free.
Along with the invitation, I’ll put the link to an essay with the title ‘Why Mission Matters – Seen From a Secular Viewpoint’ in the description of this video. Also, you’ll find ways to support me. Some of you already did! And I would like to thank you big time for that. It is a huge encouragement to know that you appreciate my work.
Thank you for watching, and I wish you God’s blessing.
We’ll see each other in the next one!
Part 2 – What is known to mankind?